This is the second post of a series that is walking you through our story. If you missed the first one, you can read it here.
Ah, the engagement period… The engagement is a time period that should be filled with excitement and anticipation, but also a lot of serious discussions, premarital counseling, and prayer. DJ and I took our dating/courtship very seriously (while still having a lot of fun), and that continued, even intensified, during our engagement. We knew once we were engaged that we didn’t want a long engagement. We were doing this relationship according to God’s plan…which meant certain activities were not occurring, if you know what I mean. We both knew enough to know that would only become more difficult once we were engaged, so we set a date that was only three months later! So much to do and not a lot of time! Premarital counseling is a MUST!
Even if you aren’t being married in a church, premarital counseling is vital. That was something neither DJ nor I did prior to our first marriages. I don’t know that it would have changed anything for either of us, but I guarantee it will change things for you now. We love our church and our pastors; the counseling we received was good, but it didn’t touch on a lot of the issues that blended families will encounter. It was GREAT information for first marriages, and good reminders for us, but much of it was stuff we were already doing. Now that we are going through the Blending Families book, videos, and workbook, I believe that this is FANTASTIC material for engaged couples to go through.
I encourage you to talk about the hard stuff. One of our hardest conversations was about finances. We had to schedule those talks, but we were ultimately able to set a budget that we both agreed to, set a vision of where we wanted to go over the next five years, and set annual and monthly goals that would get us where we wanted to be. We continue to have “checkup” discussions to see how we are doing against our plan and to make adjustments where necessary. Each January, we document our goals on a whiteboard in our dining room and have a family meeting where we talk about how we’ve done over the last year and where we want to go in the coming year. This keeps the kids involved so that they understand and witness good financial decision-making processes.
Other discussions should cover topics like parenting philosophies, how to handle discipline (and this may change as your relationship with the respective step-children evolves over time), expectations that you have entering the marriage, and roles within the marriage (e.g. who pays the bills, who takes out the trash, who cooks, who picks up kids, etc.). Do you have pet peeves that the other person needs to be aware of (such as not putting laundry away or not putting dirty clothes in the hamper)? These might be things that you won’t realize until after you’re married, but we all have bad habits. I encourage you, when you get annoyed by something your spouse (or children/stepchildren) does, ask yourself, “Is this something that is worth getting upset about, or should I just fix it myself?” DJ tossing his dirty socks towards the laundry bin, missing, and leaving them on the floor isn’t worth an argument, when it takes five seconds to pick them up and put them in. My preference for how the silverware drawer organized is not worth a fight, I just fix it when I see it’s not how I like it (and if the kids are putting away clean dishes, I ask T to put the silverware away because she is the only one that organizes them like I do). I know that the silverware thing is MY issue and recognize its not fair to force that onto others. But there are things that are definitely worth a discussion, so be willing to talk to your spouse about those things, and be willing to listen without being defensive when your spouse talks with you about a potential concern. Anything that causes you to have a negative emotion towards your spouse or any of the children needs to be discussed.
Including the children in the wedding ceremony
We also felt it was important for our children to be a part of the process, because we wanted them to feel that this was about the entire family, not just the adults. We are a family, albeit blended, and we chose to marry the entire package that came with the spouse. Our children were young (5-9) when we started dating, so we went into our marriage knowing that the children were part of the package deal.
All of our children were directly involved in the wedding ceremony. While DJ did ask my dad (and all of our kids) for permission to marry me, it was my children that walked me down the aisle. I felt it was important for them to entrust me (and themselves) to DJ’s care. DJ’s girls were the flower girls, and his son was the ring bearer.
One of our favorite portions of the ceremony was a “sand art” activity, after we had said our vows to each other. We had a framed photo of all of us, and each of us had a different colored bottle of sand. We each poured a little bit of our sand into the picture frame, signifying the blending of our families. That photo still sits on our fireplace today, and will always be a reminder of that special day.
If you’re still planning your wedding, consider how you would like the children involved, and talk with them about how they want to be involved. Be creative!
Don’t discount informing your former spouse!
I know I know. Why is it any of their business?!?! Well, for one, it is a major decision that affects your children. Yes, you consider it to be a good thing, but it is still a big change and it does affect everyone. Make sure you are aware of your legal responsibilities, as well as your moral responsibilities. My agreement said I had to give a certain amount of notice before moving my children. Since I was the one moving, I had to be aware of that and do my best to stay in line with that. Now, again, I believe I had a moral obligation to tell him, regardless of what that piece of paper says.
Having your former spouse as an ally in this changing circumstance for your children will only help you. Do your best to keep him/her informed and have discussions about how it affects the kids. That doesn’t mean telling them about all the wedding details, but it should mean telling them about anything that might affect the children.
I also understand that there are situations where this is not possible, but at least prayerfully consider what is the right thing to do. I’m sure there are situations where no matter what you tell your ex-spouse, they will have a problem with it. You know what is best for your situation, but I encourage you to look at the situation from their perspective and to think about how you would want things handled if the reverse situation was occurring.
Have fun and enjoy the day!
When the big day finally rolled around, I started my day with a 10.4 mile run, to signify the date 10-4. This helped me get some of the nerves out, and fit in my long run, as I was training for a half marathon that was the weekend after our wedding. I had a friend who did my hair and makeup, and having her with me, along with my maid of honor, kept the morning fun and relaxed, even though I was a ball of nerves. The girls were so excited to get their hair and makeup done too.
The ceremony itself FLEW by, so try to enjoy it! DJ surprised me by singing a song to me (Love Someone by Jason Mraz). Who knew he was such a crooner?!?!
I surprised him with my own words (I don’t like public speaking), which didn’t get finalized until that morning as I was doing my run!
Marriage is much like the long run. You start off running with your head; you run smart. When your head says you can run no further, you run with your heart. Your heart pushes you past the point where your body wants to give up, breaking down the walls, until you reach the finish line. I am blessed to have someone who is committed to running the long crazy run called life with me, until we reach the finish line where we will hear “well done good and faithful one”.
We said our “I Do’s”, celebrated with friends and family, and went home to start this blended family life as 2 Became 8.
And of course, DJ made our wedding cake.
Stay tuned to see how our journey as a married couple and blended family went during the first year…or maybe only the first six months. It was a crazy first year!